Nosocomial Infection Claims
Two million people, or one out of 20 patients, get an infection in U.S. hospitals each year and approximately 90,000 die as a result. Some of these infections are unavoidable as the last stage in a long illness, such as in elderly patients and those with immune systems weakened by AIDS or cancer. But depending on the study, one-third to three-quarters of these infections are preventable.
Astonishingly, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the most effective way to reduce these nosocomial infections, as they are called, is for physicians and the hospital’s staff to wash their hands between treating patients. Some studies estimate that doctors only clean their hands between patients 48 percent of the time. And while there is no shortage of excuses, one reason physicians do not wash their hands as often as they should is that they are under pressure from HMOs to see as many patients as they can.
Additional sources for infection include:
- Intravenous (IV) and urinary tract catheters being used too often, not changed enough, or changed under non-sterile conditions. Along with surgical drains and tracheotomy tubes, all of these devices bypass the body’s natural lines of defense against pathogens
- Surgical instruments and other medical devices
- Liberal use of antibiotics to which germs develop a resistance
While there are microorganisms such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the rubeolaand varicella viruses that can be spread through airborne transmission, most nosocomial infections are transmitted through direct or indirect contact. Some examples of nosocomial infections that have recently come under increased scrutiny include:
- Methicilline Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) – this resistant form of Staphylococcus aureus, a bad bug to begin with, is also more potent and easier for people to become infected with. Infections have been rising sharply, even among healthier patients and healthy non-patients. It has been emerging as a cause of necrotizing fasciitis (see below) and pneumonia. MRSA has also been causing record numbers of less-serious skin diseases in children.
- Acinetobacter Baumannii – while it poses no threat to healthy people, hospital staff can become colonized. It then slips through catheters, breathing tubes and open wounds, usually into the sickest patients, potentially causing severe clinical diseases with high mortality rates. Most of these bacteria are multi-resistant and have increased in recent years.
- Necrotizing fasciitis – also known as “flesh-eating bacteria”, it can start in a small cut or trauma and works its way within days or hours through the layers of tissue that surround muscles if not treated with antibiotics and surgery. Most cases are caused by group A streptococcus. About one-third are fatal.
If you are hospitalized, you can keep a hospital-approved hand cleaner by your bed and ask staff to use it. You may also request that only essential personnel and no medical students be allowed in the operating room.
Surgeons know their infection rates and you can ask them to share these numbers with you. Unfortunately, while some states and the CDC collect data on adverse events in hospitals, this information is either not readily available to the public.
If you or a loved one contracted an infection during a hospital stay, you may have a medical malpractice claim against the hospital. Please call or email us today to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney near you.